Multitudes of Water Lilies

On our last afternoon in Paris, we had the choice of visiting Le Musée d’Orsay or L’Orangerie. Although there was more to see in the Orsay, I couldn’t resist returning to see Les Nymphéas, especially as we would be visiting Monet’s gardens in Giverny the next day. When I had come to this museum with my parents a few years before, I had been struck by the scale and how dynamic the paintings were. I had also realized how calming the vast blue images were. This time, I was not as surprised when I entered the gallery, but I immediately felt relaxed. I imagined the serene settings that had inspired the paintings, eager to see them in person.

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When we arrived in Giverny, my first reaction as we entered the gardens was disappointment at the number of tourists milling around. Instead of being the calming, inspiring garden retreat I expected, it felt like a public attraction such as the Eiffel Tower: something to see just because of how famous it was, not for the value of the place itself. It did not satisfy my expectations, for at first, the atmosphere was not nearly as serene as the paintings themselves, nor could I truly get a sense of what Monet saw. However, before long, I could not help but enjoy the spectacular flowers and trees. The gardens exuded a sense of green, and I marveled at how Monet captured so many other colors in his paintings to counter the overwhelming lushness. I wished that I could have seen the gardens in different lights and times of day to truly see the inspiration of the paintings.

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After wandering through the network of ponds, we entered the flower garden, closer to the house. I saw many flower varieties I had never even imagined before entwined amongst roses, poppies, and daisies. The flowers were so densely grown that it was impossible to tell one plant from the next. The colors were unbelievable, varied and bright. Remembering that Monet had created the gardens as if they were an ongoing work of art, I could see how the flowers themselves formed a natural masterpiece. Although initially disappointing, my visit to Giverny was as picturesque as the Nymphéas paintings.

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